Overview: To create employee handbooks that are effective, employers should include all necessary workplace policies, procedures and practices. In many instances, this policy manual can serve as an employer's best defense in defending any workplace practice or action such as the enforcement of a dress code policy or the investigation of a claim for sexual harassment in the workplace. An employer should ensure that all of the policies in the employee handbook are communicated to all employees and supervisors and that proper training on the policies is provided to the employees. An employer should frequently review the policies in its handbook to see if any need updating based on a change in any law or workplace practice or as the result of a workplace incident which requires clarification of a policy.
Trends: While best practice is to include a disclaimer in the employee handbook in order to prevent it from becoming part of an employment contract, employers should be aware that the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that an overly broad at-will disclaimer in an employee handbook may violate the National Labor Relations Act by infringing upon the rights of both union and non-union employees to engage in a protected concerted activity, i.e., working collectively to improve working conditions. Employers should also be aware that in confronting the diverse workforce of today, it may be necessary for employers to develop handbooks and policies in multiple languages to address employee needs.
Author: Beth Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect amendments to the New York State Human Rights Law providing additional protections for victims of domestic violence, effective November 18, 2019.
New York employers seeking to educate employees about the availability of domestic violence victim leave and to show their compliance with New York law should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Updated guidance to reflect amendment relating to a person's right to carry a firearm onto company property, effective November 1, 2019.
Updated to reflect Protection from Workplace Harassment and Violence Act and amendments clarifying an employer's right to prohibit firearms in the workplace, both effective November 1, 2019.
HR guidance on how to create employee handbooks that includes all employment policies and practices.